Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Yuckiness of Reclaiming

Sorry for the long gap in posts, but it's crunch time of the semester. I'm currently working on two shitty papers--one on the evolution of fecalborne diseases and the other on the development of sanitation infrastructure in Delhi. Once those papers are in, I'll be posting bits and pieces from them, but for now, I'll be throwing up some microposts.

Just had a video from the Op-Doc section of the New York Times sent to me talking about the "yuck" factor of reclaimed water. Flushing the toilet is the greatest source of domestic water usage. Just think about it--we take one of the world's most precious resources, literally shit in it, then clean it up, and dump it into oceans, where we can't really use it anymore. (Desalinization technologies aren't quite efficient enough yet to make extracting and cleaning ocean water a very good option in most settings.) What if we could get over that factor? What if we could convince people to drink reclaimed water? Maybe just water our lawns with it? What if we use it just in our toilets? If we're going to stick with water-based waste management systems (which I don't think we should, but that's another story), I think the least we can do is re-use it. Rozin's comments in the video also strike me as valid, but I think if we're talking about reclaiming sewage water, I would need to see some work on whether pharmaceuticals are being removed from the water as well (which is a problem with wastewater already).

Here's an article about the trials and tribulations of re-using waste water in my hometown of San Diego.

My question is--if we have so much problems getting people to reclaim water in the US, what's going to happen if we suggest that we do it in fecalphobic cultures like India, whose very social hierarchy integrates that fecal phobia? (I'm referring to the job of the lowest in the caste hierarchy, the manual scavengers.) 

1 comment:

  1. People can, on a small scale, re-use gray water from their hand washing to fill up their toilet tank. It's called a lidsink, a sink in the toilet lid. When you flush, the black water goes down, and instead of filling the toilet tank with drinking water, the clean water first pumps out of the sink in the top of the toilet so you can wash your hands. That water fills the tank for the next flush. Why should we be using drinking water in toilets anyway? watch the video from the adorable hostel in Cambria, the Bridge Street Inn